Life is often complicated and frightening for a lot of us. More so since we’re experiencing a three year pandemic that is still confusing and challenging. As we look for patience and courage to get through a day, guidance from the late spiritual teacher/psychologist Baba
Ram Dass, is a good place to turn. His brilliant legacy stems from how he selflessly offered us his lifetime of knowledge that he gained from relentless personal investigation. His teachings go on after his death as he gave us a comforting idea to help us along the path of life:
“We’re all just walking each other home.”
In his book of the same name, these words carry a certain kind of ease, a reminder to accept the human condition as it is while we alternately stumble and soar towards the unknown. He encourages
us to find all of who we are at the deepest and most profound level which allows us to see how much we all need each other.
In order to preserve his teachings and those of his guru, Neem Karoli Baba, he created the “Love. Serve. Remember” Foundation. When I consider this small trio of powerful words, I’m inspired to
look deeper inside myself to see what each one means to me.
If we can manage our self-hatred and find self-love, that frees us up to find ways to show each other we care by giving and receiving. It’s challenging to break old patterns of self loathing and blame but when we do, love fills the void. It doesn’t cost us anything and it gives us everything. Ram Dass said, “Love has to spring spontaneously from within. It is no way at the effect of any form of inner or outer force. Love and coercion can never go together. Love cannot be forced on anyone but it ca be awakened through love itself.”
The concept of service is often misunderstood. Serving someone is not an extraordinary act. It’s natural, it’s human, and it’s not worthy of a medal or a gold star. We do it because we care about other people, we want them to care about us, and as a result, it becomes
a mutual healing experience. If you think of serving someone as a way to aggrandize yourself, you’re looking in the wrong direction for the wrong reasons, and you end up feeling empty and disappointed. When you think of serving someone as a way to make their life a little bit easier, you bless your own life with fullness and satisfaction. I’m not suggesting you put yourself on the back burner. Serving someone includes you, but there is a difference between healthy and unhealthy ways to be with yourself.
Being of service is a way to stop thinking about and obsessing over personal problems. You know those old mind loops that make you crazy. It’s helpful to look beyond ourselves and offer what is needed when we can. Mahatma Gandhi said, “The best way to lose yourself is to serve others.” He believed that understanding the needs of others is an important step on the journey of self-discovery. I don’t think he was suggesting that you don’t take care of yourself. I believe he was suggesting: Serve someone, serve yourself.
At the beginning of the pandemic when we were completely isolated, I began to think about what had shaped me and made me who I am today. I walked from room to room, gazing at various objects in my home: a pair of pink pointe shoes, a drawer filled with old poetry
journals, a wooden Buddha I brought back from the far east when I was studying with the Philippine healers. I held each of these objects in my hands, closed my eyes and let them speak to me. They all had memories attached, some good ones and others not so good, but each of them represented a different phase of my life and they sparked invaluable memories.
As writers, we use our memories of small details to make a story come alive. What was he wearing? How did her voice sound? A woman who had lost her husband was upset because she was losing her memory of him. I asked her to describe him. As she recalled the details of how he looked, how he dressed and how his voice sounded, she began to get a clear picture of him and their life together, the joy and the pain, the scars and the healing. She decided to paint his image so she would never forget. Novelist,
Stephen King, says, “Art consists of the presence of memory.”
It’s always helpful to go back to our spiritual roots which are uncomplicated and accessible. When we review the simple things, the basic ideas that make up the foundation of our continuing journey, we drop into the ease of familiarity, a lightness that soothes our souls, and a way to rise above our day to day dilemmas to discover who we are, what we dream about and who we love.
Lao Tzu said, “Being deeply loved
by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”